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The Teamwork of AnaKenObi-Walker in TCW

As you may have guessed from the title, this blog post is centered around the teamwork of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Clone Wars TV series.

Something I wondered prior to considering the logic that led me to creating this topic was why their team performance in TCW was so comparatively poor based on what we know of them as individual fighters. Watching any of their team fights in TCW, they never really perform on the same level you'd expect a team of two combatants of their caliber to actually perform. For example, it didn't make sense to me why Anakin and Obi-Wan, Anakin who has challenged Dooku and beaten Ventress 1v1, and Obi-Wan who has also beaten Ventress 1v1, have so much difficulty apprehending her as a team. At first, I wrote this relatively poor teamwork off as just them jobbing for the sake of the plot (or plot induced stupidity in other words), but upon rewatching four of their 2v1 duels in TCW, I've noticed a strategic pattern they very commonly fall into that actually explains why they under-perform as a duo. This strategy is them alternating their offensives rather than them both attacking at the same time.

First off is their duel with Asajj Ventress on Christophsis:

The only actual lightsaber combat portion of this encounter is from 1:03-1:20, and in during that melee encounter, there's perhaps one moment at most around 1:10 where they actually both attack at the same time, but aside from what may be one instance of a coordinated attack, the rest of the time, one attacks while the other waits for them to finish before they attack as the first person waits for them to finish. This can best be seen in the initiation of the engagement (1:03-1:09) where Anakin is the only one pressing an offensive, and when they're driving Ventress up the steps (1:18-1:20) where they are taking turns striking at her one at a time rather than coming at her from both angles at once.

Next is their duel with Asajj Ventress aboard the Separatist Dreadnought during the Battle of Sullust:

The engagement starts when Anakin and Obi-Wan hilariously verbally roast Ventress (2:13-2:21), ironically doing so with perfect teamwork. The engagement begins with Anakin and Obi-Wan attacking and defending together for about two seconds (2:23-2:25) before they engage her one at a time from 2:30-2:42. Then they both lock blades with her attacking at the same time around 2:44 for a brief moment, prior to alternating their martial offenses from 2:45-2:50 before temporarily subduing her with the Force. Then after the melee resumes, they fall back into their pattern of alternating offensives for the rest of the duel (3:07-3:30).

Next is their duel with Dark Side Corrupted Ahsoka Tano on Mortis:

There's really not much to say about this one, but in the one shown part of Anakin and Obi-Wan taking on Ahsoka together (2:12-2:22), Anakin and Obi-Wan take turns engaging Ahsoka.

And last of all is their duel with Darth Tyranus on Oba Diah:

This duel actually illustrates my point very nicely as from the very start of the duel to about forty seconds in (0:42-1:24), Anakin and Obi-Wan really only engage Tyranus one at a time. Then from 1:25-1:28, they actually engage Tyranus at the same time from different sides, giving him more trouble there than they do at any other point in the fight. Then they pause, throw around force waves, then Tyranus kills Lom Pyke and runs, for only Anakin to follow in pursuit (as they couldn't both follow since one needed to give the other a push).

What all of these fights make clear is that far more often than not, Anakin and Obi-Wan are alternating their offensives rather than combining them, which is ultimately detrimental to both of their fighting styles.

The problem this strategy poses to Anakin is a very similar problem that very same strategy posed to Sarro Xaj when he was working in tandem with Johun Othone.

He was attempting to alternate his forays with those of the bigger man, expecting they would take turns pressing forward, then withdrawing, always keeping Zannah on defense. But the incredible reach of the bigger man's weapon made it difficult for him to unleash a sustained volley without fear of injuring or even killing his companion when the other man moved in to join the fray. As a result, the bigger man constantly had to step back, pull up, or lay off his attacks.

Darth Bane: Rule of Two

Now there are some differences here. The disparity in skill between Anakin and Obi-Wan is not nearly as profound as the difference in skill between Sarro and Johun and Anakin and Obi-Wan don't have cumbersome weapons for fighting in tandem with each other with. However there are three things that are the same. First of all, the rhythm of advance and retreat is still there with Anakin not sustaining an offensive for too long, breaking it off when it's Obi-Wan's turn. Secondly, much like Sarro, Anakin's fighting style (Djem So) is based around physical domination. And third, Anakin is clearly the greater offensive combatant of the two, as while Obi-Wan's mastery of Ataru is impressive, Anakin's mastery of Djem So undoubtedly exceeds it. What this all means for Anakin is that when fighting with a style based around physical domination, he usually doesn't sustain an offensive long enough to actually overwhelm his opponent, breaking off his offensive as the inferior offensive duelist in Obi-Wan steps in instead, which ultimately grants whatever foe they're facing a break from having to ward off Anakin's offensive. Bluntly speaking, Anakin maintaining his offensive would make more progress than the trade off he has with Obi-Wan.

As for Obi-Wan, the problem this strategy poses for his fighting style is very different than the problem it poses for Anakin's. The problem with this strategy for Obi-Wan is that it forces him into taking an offensive role when he's clearly better suited for a defensive role. To be clear, I'm not suggesting that Obi-Wan can't effectively press an offensive, as he is a master of Ataru, but his mastery of Soresu is simply more impressive, leaving him better suited for a defensive role than an offensive role, relatively speaking. This isn't detrimental against most opponents, as the duels with Ventress and Ahsoka show, as he can clearly press them with his offensive. Against an opponent of Dooku's caliber however, this can definitely be problematic. This was demonstrated when Dooku broke Kenobi's guard twice in martial combat during the Oba Diah duel, at two different points at which Kenobi charged at Dooku and Dooku kicked Kenobi around with his legs, which would be less likely to happen if Obi-Wan were taking a defensive stance against the Count, rather than an offensive one.

And this is what I believe to be the cause of their relatively ineffectual teamwork in TCW, a strategy that hampers Anakin's ability as an offensive duelist while forcing Obi-Wan into an offensive rather than a defensive role, all the while the two don't really combine their offensives very often. This strategy may serve some benefit in a war of attrition as it allows Kenobi and Anakin brief pauses for rest, which leads me to believe it was likely developed on the lengthy battlefield engagements of the clone wars against armies rather than duelists, however though it may be energy conservative for them, it grants their opponents far more time to escape, as demonstrated by both Dooku and Ventress in the TCW duels shown above.

This conclusion I have reached and the very opinion that their teamwork in lightsaber combat isn't very good may seem to contradict the legendary levels their teamwork is held at in the lore, however the accolades for their teamwork are largely derived from the outer rim sieges and events following, which took place after every one of the duels shown above. Perhaps their experience in the outer rim sieges and personal improvement allowed them to better coordinate as a team than they were able to in TCW.

To illustrate that my statements regarding their teamwork are exclusive to the period of time prior to the outer rim sieges, here is their duel against Darth Tyranus in Revenge of the Sith on the Invisible Hand.

Prior to the point at which Obi-Wan is removed from the fight, the two actually attack in tandem with each other and combine their offensive approaches against Tyranus for the entire period of time from 1:06-1:45, save for when Kenobi is briefly incapacitated by Tyranus's TK and was engaged by the super battle droids, neither of which could really be helped by their teamwork. Teamwork doesn't improve Obi-Wan's telekinetic defense, and someone had to take care of those droids. What is important is that after Kenobi reaches the duo again, he resumes attacking Tyranus at the same time Anakin is attacking him, though Tyranus puts an end to it with his telekinesis.

This teamwork is actually effective, aside from the fact that Kenobi still is outmatched by Tyranus in telekinesis. Anakin has another offensive duelist supplementing his own efforts, rather than having to break off his offensive to trade off with an inferior offensive duelist, and Obi-Wan, though he's still in an offensive role, has an even greater offensive duelist right next to him, making him less vulnerable than he would otherwise be not taking a defensive stance, and ultimately making an offensive stance the preferable stance for Obi-Wan to be in with his efforts actually supplementing Anakin's own.

And this is ultimately how I view Anakin and Obi-Wan's teamwork during the Clone Wars, from its clear flaws in TCW, to its evolution to the state it's at in ROTS.